The article that inspired this post was written by Victoria Lambert, published by The Daily Telegraph, and distributed by National Post Wire Service. I like the fact that the article mentions more than one plausible explanation for Savant Syndrome, so I included the article in this post.
Article by Victoria Lambert
Being knocked unconscious might affect us physically, causing double vision or headaches, or mentally, making us fearful or even grumpy. But few could dream of the altered state Jason Padgett found himself in, after an injury — caused in his case by a blow to the head during a late-night mugging outside a karaoke bar in 2002.
His vision changed: It was somehow sharper and more comprehensive than before. Padgett recalls turning on the bathroom tap and noticing “lines emanating out perpendicularly from the flow.”
When the visuals continued over the next few days, he became “obsessed with every shape in my house, from rectangles of the windows to the curvature of a spoon,” he told the New York Post.
In the following years, Jason stopped working and spent all of his time studying math and physics, focusing on fractals (repeated geometric patterns), which he found he could draw in extraordinary detail.
He realized he was not alone when he saw a BBC documentary about Daniel Tammet, a young Londoner with savant syndrome — the condition in which a person with a mental disability (in Daniel’s case, autism, a condition shared by 50% of savants) shows prodigious abilities in memory and art, math and music, far in excess of what is considered normal.
“That’s it! That’s what’s going on with me. Someone else can see what I see!” Jason thought, as he recalls in his new book Struck by Genius: How a Brain Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel. He contacted Dr. Darold Treffert, a Wisconsin-based psychiatrist and the leading expert on savantism, who diagnosed “acquired savant syndrome.”
According to Treffert, there are three levels of savant ability (which is more common in men than women, with male savants outnumbering females six to one). “First, there’s something called splinter skills — this would be a case with someone who has a talent for memorization above the norm, for example,” he says. “Then there’s something called a talented savant — someone who has a marked talent in one area — and finally, there’s something called the prodigious savant — someone with truly extraordinary gifts. There are fewer than 100 known prodigious savants living, worldwide.”
Even Jason would fall into the merely “talented” sub-group.
Click here to read Part 2 of this post.
Click here to read a Beyond Injury post about Daniel Tammet.
Thanks to Victoria Lambert for writing the article; The Daily Telegraph for publishing the article, National Post Wire Service for distributing the article; New York Post for its contribution; Google for helping me find the article and picture; as well as all the people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the picture and text I used in this post.